Q&A with Taylor Rice of Local Natives

Local Natives is getting ready to hit the road again to support their sophomore effort, “Hummingbird,” which drops tomorrow. After kicking off their tour with sold-out shows in their L.A. home base, the band takes their brand of psychedelic indie pop up to Oakland this Wednesday. Singer Taylor Rice called up Intermission to chat about working with The National’s Aaron Dessner on the new record and those lush harmonies.

Courtesy of Bryan Sheffield

Courtesy of Bryan Sheffield

Intermission (INT): What was it like working with Aaron Dessner [of The National]?

Taylor Rice (TR): Aaron was awesome. The whole thing kind of came together as this serendipitous, lucky thing. We just met on tour right about the time that we were talking to producers and it just worked out so well with them. He’s a guy in the band, and he’s a songwriter, and in that respect he understands band dynamics so well because he has his own crazy band dynamic.

INT: How is “Hummingbird” different from “Gorilla Manor?” Do you feel like your sound has changed?

TR: I think I did kind of expand in both directions. [“Hummingbird”] expands outwardly. There are songs that are the most orchestrated and the most dense and layered of anything that we’ve had before; then there’s also a kind of inward expansion, bare moments as well. It’s also a more deeply personal record.

INT: How is it more personal?

TR: The difference I think is where we are. It’s kind of what we’ve been over the past two years. We’ve had a lot of really incredible amazing times … our musical dreams came true, far beyond what even we knew we could expect to think was possible, and playing all over the world and playing with orchestras and just really incredible … It’s the hardest two years we’ve ever had also. There was a death in the immediate family of the band and some relationships that were falling apart.  It all just comes from that emotional space. That’s why it feels like a more personal record.

INT: How do you guys put together your harmonies?

TR: Well, we’ve been singing together since we were kids, so for 10 years now. We know each other so well that we’ve learned how to sing together since the time we were in preschool.

INT: You guys are still working with a bunch of independent labels like Frenchkiss and have avoided major labels. How has that been working out for you?

TR: Yeah, I can’t imagine singing to a major label … We had just learned to do everything ourselves and that really paid off for us, because the longer that we were able to do that, the more we really got to choose who we wanted to work with. The people we have been working with now have been incredible and really supportive.

INT: Do you see yourselves continuing without a major label?

TR: Yeah, definitely – I mean, the music industry is changing so fast. I don’t think the label system will be defunct in two years or anything, but at the same time, I think it’s very open. There’s been a paradigm shift like every two years at this point, and we’re actually at a point right now where this is our last record on the two labels that we’re with, so we’ll have a lot of options.

INT: What’s your favorite song off the new record?

TR: My favorite song at the moment – I have to qualify it because it changes all the time – but my current favorite song is “Feelings.” It’s one of my songs so I’m more attached to it. It’s like one of my children, one of my babies. And I’m just really happy with how that came together. A lot of our songs take a really long time – we have this very democratic writing process which can be very arduous and difficult – but this one came more from a burst of inspiration and we were all on the same page so it came together very quickly.

INT: This happened a long time ago, but why did you change your name (from Cavil at Rest)?

TR: We’re really a different band than we were then. It’s actually ridiculous that we’re quoted as changing our name. At that time, we had been in Orange County and we could sell out a show in Orange County, so it seemed like a pretty big deal to us. It felt like we had this thing to hold on to, but we also knew that it wasn’t the same band. That was the band that we were in high school and it had different members and it changed so much. We just knew that when we wrote “Gorilla Manor” and finished it, we felt like a completely different band.

INT: And I assume your new name is mispronounced much less frequently than your old one?

TR: That is correct. That is very correct.